When the Titanic embarked on its maiden voyage in 1912, people said it was an unsinkable ship. Unlike any ship before it, the vessel had been built in compartments so if one got a hole, only that compartment would fill with water and the ship could remain afloat. When the Titanic hit an iceberg in the north Atlantic Ocean, however, the iceberg punched holes in many compartments and the ship began to sink.
The captain told everyone to get to the lifeboats, but many passengers were convinced there was no real danger. They thought the captain was being overly cautious and would soon announce that the problem had been solved and they could go back to their rooms. They saw no reason to leave a ship illuminated with beautiful lights and where the orchestra was playing. Then the “unsinkable” ship tilted dangerously to one side as it started to go under, and everyone wanted to be on a lifeboat.
But by then, it was too late.1
In 2019 some people proclaimed, “Nothing can stop the world economy. Unemployment rates across the globe are lower than ever.” Then along came a virus so small that we cannot even see it, and it changed everything. Not only did millions of people become ill and many die, but many also lost jobs. Fear was everywhere. Like the Titanic, the world tilted, but members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were safe and secure in the lifeboat.
Then an interesting thing happened. A lot of people looked toward our Church lifeboat. The April and October general conferences in 2020 were watched by more people than ever before—millions of additional people. During the pandemic, many people began to realize they needed what the lifeboat had to offer: belief in God, appreciation for organized religion, and faith in Jesus Christ.
A recent international study indicated that more young people than ever before are declaring themselves atheists. These individuals think that belief in God doesn’t make a difference when it comes to being a good, moral, and ethical person.2 Here’s the challenge: God has given us the freedom to believe in Him or not, but it’s not correct to say it doesn’t make a difference. Our belief in God affects how we see ourselves and how we see and treat others.
Studies show that in times of trouble and crisis, believers cope much better than nonbelievers.3 Believers are happier and more willing to donate to charity.4 During the pandemic, people struggled to find peace and meaning in a time of great isolation and disruption. Believers felt a hope and optimism others did not.5
Brett G. Scharffs is a law professor at Brigham Young University. When some of his colleagues at other universities find out he is a devout believer, they sometimes ask, “But what if you are wrong and God does not exist?”
He responds: “I am willing to be wrong in this way if it means believing and treating others as though they are children of God, created in His image with the potential to become beings like unto a perfect and perfectly loving God. I would rather make the mistake of attributing meaning and love to a universe that is meaningless and indifferent than vice versa. And besides, I do not think we are wrong.”6
Many people believe in God but not organized religion. They say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Typically that means they acknowledge God’s existence but do not want Him to ask anything of them, give them any commandments, or expect them to make any changes.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught that spirituality—an individualized experience—might be all we would need if we lived alone on mountaintops, but we live in families, communities, societies. That’s why we need religion—the group practice of spirituality.7
It’s easy to sit alone on a mountaintop and say, “I love everyone.” Try feeling the same way when you are late for work because the driver of the vehicle in front of you is going so slow. You want to honk and yell at the driver. In that moment, you need the norms and standards of religion to help you bring mountaintop ideals like love right down to the reality of the moment when someone is being unlovable. That is what religion helps us to do.
Some people see no need for organized religion, and yet they demand organized schools, cities, stores, airports, and hospitals. They see the benefits of going to an organized hospital, where there are rules or expectations. We see the same benefits in our organized Church.
Being part of this organized religion blesses us and those we love in every aspect of our lives. Because the Church is organized, we can care for others more effectively together than we could ever do individually. Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said that partway through the world pandemic of 2020, the Church had already participated in over 1,000 humanitarian aid projects in over 150 countries. We provided food and other necessities to care for millions in need. None of us could have done that on our own, but we did it together because we have an organized religion.8
Some people believe in God and belong to organized religions, but they don’t have faith in Jesus Christ. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reported in the October 2020 general conference of the Church that in the coming decades, more are predicted to leave Christianity than enter it.9
It is common to see social media posts degrading Christ and Christians. Will we turn our backs on the Savior because following Him is no longer popular? Will we refuse to raise the Christian flag because it makes us targets? I don’t think so.
One research study showed that while the COVID-19 pandemic raged during the summer of 2020, 12 percent of non-Latter-day Saint families increased their family religious practices compared to 62 percent of Latter-day Saint families who increased theirs.10 These families know that people’s opinions don’t change the truth. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is the Captain of the lifeboat. He said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11).
When a few passengers started boarding the lifeboats on the Titanic, others thought they were crazy. In fact, the first lifeboats went out half full. When the Titanic tilted, however, people saw the importance of the lifeboat. When the world tips, some people start thinking more about God, realize the value of organized religion, and increase their faith in Jesus Christ.
Now is not the time to go back to the Titanic. Now is the time to stay in the lifeboat—the Church of Jesus Christ—and reach out to help others find what they have been missing.